Daniel Nayeri, Publisher: Making Books Intended to Be Generous

As Publisher, can you explain what your role is?

The role of any director at Odd Dot is first and foremost to "get out of the way." It's a service position, as far as I'm concerned, with the mandate to seek, recruit and cultivate people who would otherwise be outsiders in our industry. I'm a Middle Eastern, refugee millennial who snuck into this country club through the back door and prefers mixed martial arts to arts mixers... so I suppose I have a heart for the outsider.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to found an imprint alongside nine of the most creative people I know. I'm not sure it gets any better than that. And I think it's just about the hardest thing to do in publishing. It turns out all those adages about people being the most important part are true.

What kinds of books are you looking to publish?

Definitive books. Interactive Books. Books of unabashed whimsy. We focus heavily on gift books for all ages, nonfiction in categories or formats that we've never seen before and novelty that offers toy-like experiences. We ask questions like, "Is it useful? Is it necessary? Does it empower a reader with a skill they've never had before?" Our books are intended to be generous--to give something to the reader in exchange for their time and attention. The more concrete that gift, the better.

Do you have any upcoming favorite titles?

Code this Game! The author, Meg Ray, is an expert on teaching computer science--she was a co-writer of the upcoming CSTA K-12 federal standards. In Code this Game, she takes readers through 200 pages of step-by-step instructions to build a tower defense game. She teaches this in Python and the art is all free to download on our site. In the next 100 pages, she goes even further. Once the reader has built their game, they've effectively learned how to follow a recipe. In those last 100 pages, she teaches you how to cook. Readers learn to mod, hack and remix the game to be whatever they might think of--a match-three puzzle game or a vintage arcade platformer. The skills they learn allow them to go off in any direction.

A 320-page, full-color book on coding is a feat in and of itself. But to make it a true Odd Dot project, we decided to add an innovative format as well: the entire book stands up on an easel built into the case, so readers can keep both hands free for typing. Altogether, it's a substantive skill-building concept, beautifully designed, illustrated and packaged in an innovative format.

Odd Dot has been described as "a proudly odd mix of makers, creators, and engineers, guided by the priorities of innovation, education, and play." What does this mean to you?

You know the part I like most about that line? The part that implies our team is actively in pursuit of greatness. It doesn't say we're passively at our desks, hoping for something to land in our laps. It says we're in the mines digging. Every day we have ad hoc development sessions wherein we prototype a new format or explore a new topic. The question at the heart of Odd Dot is this: What if you created a group within a publishing house that did nothing but make stuff constantly?

Daniel Nayeri

Daniel Nayeri is the publisher of Odd Dot, an imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. Daniel was born in Iran and spent several years as a refugee before immigrating to Oklahoma at age eight with his family. He is the author of several books for young readers, including Straw House, Wood House, Brick House Blow: Four Novellas. He is a former professional pastry chef, and if he's not writing or baking, he's likely playing board games or riding motorcycles.

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